Social media monster – Going Gaga

If there is one celebrity who has successfully harnessed the power of social media to extend her reputational capital, it would be Lady Gaga.

Last year, Lady Gaga made $52m, reached a Klout score of 94 and has a Twitter following of over 30 million. Not only does she hold the number one spot for most followers on Twitter, Gaga’s Facebook page ranks among the three most popular pages in the world. It is not surprising that she is one of the most socially influential people in the digital landscape.

Gaga has created a social media monster machine that has allowed her to interact directly with her fans to sustain her celebrity status and music.   Her success is due in part to her control over her social media accounts. She not only uses her account to cross-promote her upcoming releases and tours, she also actively writes her own tweets and demonstrates her appreciation for her fan base aka ‘Little Monsters’ by retweeting and responding to their tweets / Facebook posts.

Lady Gaga shares personal photos of herself with her fans

Recently, Gaga created her own social media platform: Little Monsters. Set to rival Facebook, this social media networking site is dedicated to the fans of Lady Gaga. It is a space for fans to convene to participate in discussions, “put their paws up”, and post photos.

Gaga’s all-encompassing presence is a result of her integration of social and traditional media, engaging audiences in real-time and telling a story that is relateable and worth spreading. She has found the economic value of building her brand online by tapping into the relationships and interests that people share in the digital landscape.

What can Mother Monster teach us about building reputational capital?

Encourage participation: Provide opportunities for your fans to actively participate. Engage with them by allowing them to contribute at a personal level so they become invested and begin to identify with your brand.

Empower your fan base: Form genuine connections with your fan base. Be conversational and personable and real. Just like real relationships, companies should thank their fans /  followers for their loyalty, receive and respond to feedback and offer incentives.

Provide valuable content: Highlight offers, prizes and content that will keep your followers interested.

Integrate your platforms: Cross-sell your promotions and content across your online channels – whether that be your website, Facebook or Twitter – to create a uniform voice.

Social media creating spaces for views that challenge norms? Have some m$therf*cking’ compassion! Check out Kate’s blog on Gaga’s Body 2013 Revolution

Creating uniqueness: KLM airlines

The digital age and the rise of social media has increased the visibility of brands and hence competition for reputation.

As I mentioned in my post Why reputations matter, reputation is built on respect and trust which creates competitive advantage.

Attracting customers to products or services, employees to jobs and investors to the brand’s securities create a favourable reputation that improves a company’s profitability and enhances its chances of surviving. It is derived from a brand’s uniqueness.

My uni colleague, Sarah Hanniffy, shared a great article that highlights the importance of exploring the different uses of social media platforms but brands to achieve different needs. There is no such thing as “one-size-fits-all strategy” for building a brand’s reputation. As such, the next few blog posts will be dedicated to a number of brands that have successfully harnessed the power of social media.

Today BRW covered an example of a social media campaign tapping into the ways customers communicate in order to build rapport and differentiation.

The brief:
Dutch airline, KLM aimed to create brand uniqueness in an industry known for uninspiring passengers.

They wanted to transform boredom into happiness and engage with customers to make them feel special.

The response:
KLM went out of their way to be more approachable by undertaking a social media campaign to engage with their passengers. This involved tracking down passengers waiting to board flights and presenting them with small gifts to thank them for using Facebook, Twitter or Foursquare to indicate they were travelling with KLM. The passenger’s social media presence was then analysed by KLM to work out an appropriate ‘small gift’. The campaign was run over a few weeks.

The results:

  • KLM airlines received over 1m tweets during the campaign period as word spread
  • They received 17, 528 followers on Foursquare
  • Twitter following reached 2.6m
  • Received over 250,000 views on YouTube

Key learnings:
Shifting ways of brand to customer communication to understanding customers and the way they communicate with them to personalise experiences and differentiate their brand.

This has not only included engaging with customers / passengers in new, creative and memorable ways, but also using social media platforms such as LinkedIn and Facebook profiles as business networking tools. The program, ‘Meet and Seat’ allow passengers to request to be seated next to a person as an opportunity to network.

What do you think of this campaign?

[edits. 25, September 2012]

The airlines are so across their social media, they’ve engaged with me within 12 hours of posting a tweet about them!

Why reputations matter

I’ve been throwing around the idea of ‘brand reputation’ and its relation to social media without really clarifying why brands need to pay attention to this intangible asset in the digital landscape.

Charles J. Frombrun’s book, Reputation: Realising value from the corporate image, has been useful in providing a theoretical framework for how companies not only compete for market share through strategic positioning, but also for reputation.

Why?

Winning brand reputations provide competitive edge and privileges.

We trust companies we respect and are familiar with. We willingly pay for their products, believing the products are more likely to fulfil our expectations that the products of lesser-known companies.

A great reputation is difficult to imitate and limits what rivals can do.

It is derived from the company’s identity and it creates wealth.

But reputation also comes with responsibility. There are raised expectations for the brand to live up to its reputation and a brand’s reputation must be managed by building strong relationships with its stakeholders. When the brand serves it’s stakeholders well, its name becomes a valuable asset that creates reputational capital or brand equity.

In a digital context – with increased transparency and information access – reputation is playing a big role in keeping brands ‘honest’ and forcing them to make more definitive actions to build relationships audiences who are talking to them online.

So who is doing it well online? Coca Cola continues to build its reputation online with the integration of social media sites such as Facebook as a means of building closer ties to their customers.  They have created a common space for their customers to congregate and share their stories about their experiences with the brand and in turn create a stronger brand identity. How do we know they are doing it well? Over 51m page ‘Likes’, over 1m talking about this, and active engagement from customers on all posts.

Which highly reputable brands can you think of that have been doing well online?

The 4E’s

Today, I attended a seminar presented by an American business guru who discussed a new world of marketing. At the heart of this ‘new world’ was an article written by Brian Fetherstonhaugh titled, “The 4P’s are out, the 4E’s are in”.

I thought this article was pertinent to social media, comms and the effects these had on brand reputation. Why? Because businesses are transitioning from being vertically integrated to becoming interconnected. The consumer has seized control from businesses and this has created a new ecosystem made up of “millions and billions of unstructured one-to-one and peer-to-peer conversations”.

Although the “4E’s” framework was developed for marketing, these resonate with the use of social media and reputational management (Christopher & Gaudenzi 2009). They provide useful starting points for a brand to begin thinking about how social media will assist in leveraging their brand image, products/services and ultimately, their online reputation in a changing landscape of communication.

Let’s explore…

EXPERIENCE: Products and services have become experiences as consumers talk about them online. A presence on social media allows brands to connect with consumers and provide them with an experience to give them added value. It is a means of building on the brand’s online reputation. As brand image is closely linked to reputation, brands should go where their customers are – online – to cultivate a positive perception of the brand image. This will consolidate the brand’s reputation and increase its capability to attract, satisfy and retain consumers.

EVERYPLACE: Technology and social media have turned ‘place’ into ‘everyplace’. Consumers create their own paths for looking for information, getting entertainment and shopping. Brands need to adopt channels to access consumers and vice versa. Social media is a new channel for brands to interact with consumers, develop dialogic communication with them and in doing so, build and maintain brand reputation.

EXCHANGE: With so much on the web being offered for free, appreciating the value of things becomes important. Brands who know the value of their customers – what grabs their attention and what engages them  – will enable the brand to know what it takes for the consumer to give them their attention, engagement and permission. Exchange is also about knowledge exchange with consumers and potential consumers to facilitate improved performance by acting on feedback.

EVANGELISTS: With a multiplicity of message/communication channels, promotion simply isn’t enough. A powerful approach is through evangelism: creating a mission and brand experience so inspiring that consumers want to engage with the brand and share their enthusiasm with others. This may begin internally. Employees have a synergistic role in the overall positioning of a brand’s reputation. Motivated employees will share goals, knowledge and brand visions inside and outside the organisation and that flows on to social media too! Brands who build a powerful word of mouth/mouse through evangelists will inspire customers with passion.

What do you think? Are the 4E’s relevant to social media, comms and brand rep?

Why brands need to get on social media. STAT.

The ubiquity of the Internet and social media has created an interactive and dialogic forum. Having an online presence goes beyond having a website – a static point for information – it is about creating a presence.

An article in the Australian Financial Review (p.2!) today highlights the importance of businesses needing to have a strong social media profile to mitigate risk and manage the brand’s reputation.

Having a social media presence not only provides brands with opportunity to communicate with target audiences, control over their online image, increase traffic to their website, listen / participate in conversations for customer service and product improvement,  it is also a means of validity and credibility.

Having your own social media profile is important to preserving your brand’s reputation

Not having an online reputation via a social media presence can be detrimental for your brand because:

  1. It suggests you have something to hide, looking suspicious
  2. You are providing the opportunity for someone else to impersonate you
  3. It decreases your ability to monitor / rectify deceitful information
  4. Your competitors are there and you’re not

Social media consultant, Laurel Papworth rightfully points out in the AFR article, “it’s really risky for organisations to not have a voice in social media.”

If brands reject social media now, they are not only falling behind the eight-ball, they are also risking the reputation of their brand.

Zuckerberg meets Grunig: a marriage made in dialogue heaven

Facebook. Online genius. The Social Network. Billionaire.  Who doesn’t know the name Mark Zuckerberg?

One of the first social networking platforms I started using as a teen was Facebook. I like to think of Zuckerberg as some sort of founding father of what social media is to me. Back then (timeline tells me 2007), I was (and still am) fascinated by the liberating social possibilities that Facebook offered. Getting a notification from a friend commenting on something I had written or taken a picture of was almost as exciting as receiving a letter in the mail. Making friends with people across the world was easier than making friends with my neighbour, AND we shared interests.

These days, I can ‘Like’ the brands I like, make complaints about those I don’t and discuss products and services with people before I buy. Bottom line? Social media allows me to engage with brands and businesses in ways that were previously inconceivable.

Drawing on my experiences in both PR and as a student of communications, social media is helping businesses and organisations practice ‘excellent communication practices’. Pioneered by James Grunig, two-way symmetrical communication is the essence of social media.  Not only does it facilitate consumers’ ability to talk directly to each other, there is an open channel for communication between consumer and organisation.

Social media is the ESSENCE of two-way symmetrical communication

Social media is emerging as a primary communication channel. It is magnifying the impact of consumer-to-consumer conversations (only 14% of consumers trust brand ads compared to 78% of consumers who trust peer recommendations – SEO optimise). Robert Young speaks of social media as shifting the balance of control for production and distribution of content between corporations and consumers. If consumers are gaining a more powerful voice, businesses need to change their communication approach.

Ignoring the power of online word of mouse is no longer an option in the digitally interconnected world where consumers are liberated from centralised / monopolised sources of information. Using social media is equally about brand reputation and risk management. Our use of social media today begs the question: “Can brands afford to forgo social media?”